FunNature & AnimalAnts scare elephants

Ants scare elephants

elefantes-hormigasThekenyan acacias(Africa) would be cut down and mercilessly eaten by elephants if it weren’t for theirtiny allies: ants a billion times smaller than pachydermsthat, however, manage to scare them.

As revealed by a study published in the latest issue of the magazineCurrent Biology, the columns of ants deter the elephants by entering their sensitive trunks if they dare to approach the acacias, which in exchange for protection offer the insects shelter and food in the form of nectar. It is a history of David against Goliath, explains the American biologist Todd Palmer, co-author of the work.

This finding confirms thatantshave an important impact on the ecosystem of the savanna in which they live, byprotect trees that are necessary to absorb carbon dioxide and thus reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases, says the study.

Todd Palmer and his colleague Jacob Goheen, from the University of Wyoming, in the United States, realized during an investigation in Kenya that elephants were straying from a variety of common acacia in the area, theAcacia drepanolobium,in which these ants proliferate, while feeding on other varieties such as theAcacia mellifera, your favorite dish, which is free of these insects. And they found that it was the ants – and not the taste of each species – responsible for these differences. In addition, in an open field experiment, the scientists eliminated the ants from some acacias and found a year later that these trees had suffered much more damage than the others.

A curious detail is that these same insects do not bother the giraffes, which feed mainly on acacia leaves and drive the ants away with their rough tongue.The elephant’s trunk, however, it isvery sensitive to ant stingsand it is the true “Achilles heel” of the animal, according to scientists.


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